A bagel, cream-cheese-side down on the floor, left such an impression in Suze’s mind that she couldn’t shake it. In an all-nighter, cram-session stupor fueled by Diet Coke and Nine-Inch-Nails, Suze and I were vulnerable to anything that might slap us in the face with pure absurdity. That bagel, on the front steps of the student center, was it. Did we pick it up? No. We laughed at it and made up scenarios for its sad existence. Soon after, Suze and I noticed smashed food all around us: trucks barreling over a slice of pizza, topping-side down in the middle of the road—an entire cake mashed into the sidewalk. For me—and for others in our circle—the joke got old, but not for Suze. Suze believed there was something else to this phenomenon. She called it “the incongruency of things,” which she believed sparked energy that could be passed on to others.
“It’s in the spaces where the laughter bubbles up. That’s where the energy is, and I can capture it,” Suzy says to me one day. She looks like she hasn’t slept in weeks.
“You’ve heard of energy drainers, right?” she asks. “Well, I’m going to make an energy stick and zap people with it so that they will have more energy, not less.”
In careful detail, she tells me how she’s using her parents’ garage as a laboratory in order to create a RAE (Random Acts of Energy) stick. When I visit her in the garage, I can hear the hum of several electric generators buzzing. Bolts of blue electricity sizzle above us in the air. On the table in the center of the room, various foods have been placed face-down, and there’s a recording, running in a loop, of laughter.
“This,” she says, while waving her hands above the foods, “is where the magic happens. Watch.”
Suze picks up a six-inch-long grabber wand of sorts and waves it over the table. The wand glows an iridescent blue, but only momentarily.
“What do you think?”
“It’s pretty impressive, but it doesn’t seem to last very long. Have you been able to test it out more?”
“No, but I’m planning on having a party and inviting everyone over.”
“You’re going to test out the RAE on our friends at a party?”
“Do you think you’ll electrocute anyone?”
“Nah—it’s harmless. There’s not that much electricity—just enough to create a kind of warm, buzzy feeling, like the first stage of being drunk.”
On my phone, I look up what to do if someone gets electrocuted at a party.
The party’s in full swing when I enter. The music is loud, and the buffet table is everything I expect it to be: jam-packed with foods that are smashed, face-side-down: crackers smeared with cheese spread, fried tortillas generously slathered with 7-layer dip, pizza (supreme), and a grand assortment of frosted cookies and cakes. Suze is in the corner, laughing. The rest of the guests stay away from the food. Whispers of “disgusting” and “I’m sick of this joke already” float in the air, rising above the cinnamon smell of the scented candles, which add a strange element of class to the disaster Suze has created. One by one, the guests leave, looking exhausted and bored.
“This is just draining,” Henrietta says to me as she opens the door. “It’s always the same thing: ‘Look at that doughnut on the floor! What must have happened to that banana?’ Ugh! Enough!”
When she leaves and I turn around, I see Suze. She has heard every word. Her smile fades, and there we are, in an empty room, with plenty of smashed up appetizers to last through a blizzard. Suze wanders in a daze over to a chair near the kitchen and puts her head in her hands. She doesn’t see the RAE under the table, starting to glow. I pick up the stick, and it pulses lightly in my hands. Soft rays of gold shine, and they’re warm, like freshly-baked bread, like the sand after the sun has set, but the moon is still out—like a grandmother’s sweater. Turning, I point the RAE in Suze’s direction. When she lifts her head from her hands, thousands of stars twinkle on the edges of the strands of her hair. Sparkling light drops like rain, and she dances in the pools that gather.
Cecilia Kennedy taught English and Spanish courses in Ohio before moving to Washington state and publishing short stories in various magazines and anthologies. The Places We Haunt is her first short story collection. You can find her DIY humor blog and other adventures/achievements here: (https://fixinleaksnleeksdiy.blog/). Twitter: @ckennedyhola